Egyptian MPs were highly divided on street protests organised yesterday over the ceding of the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, with MP Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat telling reporters Tuesday that he is against all forms of protests.
"I stand against protests, whether they are in favour or against the new agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Tiran and Sanafir," El-Sadat said, arguing that "protests do nothing but fuel political escalation, divisions and congestion."
El-Sadat, nephew of late president Anwar El-Sadat, is the newly-elected chairman of parliament's Human Rights Committee.
"The new deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Tiran and Sanafir is a very thorny issue, and I think the final say on this agreement should not be left to parliament alone," he said, adding that "I think there should be a political dialogue on this national issue."
"All political forces and civil society organisations, including opponents and proponents, should take part in this dialogue, which should be aired live on television," he said.
"After this dialogue, which should lead to creating some kind of national consensus, the deal can come to parliament so it can give its final say in an objective and transparent way."
"If the government made a grave mistake by discussing this agreement in closed-door meetings, parliament should not repeat this mistake," he said.
El-Sadat also indicated that he, in his capacity as chairman of parliament's Human Rights Committee, talked with a number of senior interior ministry officials, urging them to release all those who were detained before or during protests on 25 April.
"I told them to release those who were not involved in any violent acts, but interior ministry officials insisted that they have the right to take preventative measures against protesters," said El-Sadat.
"Interior ministry officials said they had obtained information that some activists were planning to exploit the 25 April protests to spread violence and chaos, and for this reason they moved early within their constitutional and legal rights to thwart these attempts."
As for those detained during protests, El-Sadat assured that "interior ministry officials said those who were not involved in any violent acts or affiliated with any unlawful groups would be released."
On the other hand, El-Sadat condemned protests that were organised in support of the Tiran and Sanafir deal.
"It was disgusting and provocative for me to see that some of those who were celebrating Sinai Liberation Day at Tahrir Square on 25 April were brandishing Saudi flags," said El-Sadat, insisting that "with all respect to Saudi Arabia and its pro-Egypt positions, the 25 April celebrations should have remained 100 percent Egyptian."
Kamal Amer, a former chief of military intelligence and the newly-elected chairman of parliament's Defence and National Security Committee, condemned the protests, describing them as part of a conspiracy aimed at “destabilising” Egypt.
"All available documents show that this is a done deal; that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir are part of Saudi Arabia's maritime territory, so why should protests be organised?" said Amer.
Amer is a member of the Protectors of a Nation Party, which organised demonstrations in support of the Egyptian-Saudi deal at the Tahrir and Abdin squares in Cairo on 25 April.
"We decided to organise these demonstrations to raise the awareness of citizens on the facts about this deal, and that it should not be a matter of political conflict or street protests," said Amer, adding that "Tiran and Sanafir were in Egypt's possession for military reasons, and now it is the time they go back into Saudi hands."
Amer also indicated that the Defence and National Security Committee will be one of several parliamentary committees that will be entrusted with discussing the deal.
"We could all merge into one committee to take charge of reviewing the deal, with all documents and maps attached," said Amer.
El-Sadat said the first priority of his human rights committee will be focused on reviewing the performance of the interior ministry.
"Policemen should know that their performance will face parliamentary scrutiny in the coming period," said El-Sadat.
El-Sadat disclosed that he plans to open a dialogue with interior ministry officials on two important issues that have recently received international criticism; forced disappearance and crowded prisons in Egypt.
El-Sadat also indicated that he and other MPs, including Mohamed El-Orabi, a former foreign minister and the newly-elected chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, plan to hold talks with the Italian parliament.
"We hope we will be able to pay a visit to the Italian parliament very soon to discuss the issue of Giulio Regeni – an Italian student who was murdered under mysterious circumstances in Cairo last January," said El-Sadat, arguing that "we feel that some Italian parliamentarians do not want the issue of Regeni’s murder to be politicised, and do not want friendly relations between Egypt and Italy to be disrupted due to this case."